Go up the beanstalk for a musical comedy with a hilarious edge
Ross Petty eat your heart out. You may have abdicated your Christmas panto throne for the comfort of retirement, but your crown has passed to the head of Derek Ritschel, head honcho for the Lighthouse Festival.
His two theatres, the Lighthouse Festival in Dover and the Roselawn in Port Colborne, are serving up a terrific fractured fairy tale of a show in “Jack and the Beanstalk” that will have adults, as well as the kids, rolling in the aisles.
If you don’t know what pantomime (panto) is, get ready to find out. It’s a full-blown musical comedy with bawdy jokes, lots of songs, men playing women, and women playing men and always in outrageous British pantomime tradition.
Playwright Ken MacDougall and director Jonathan Ellul have put together a great production that will have you bopping in your seat and laughing until your sides ache.
MacDougall has peppered the thing with lots of local references and corny gags. His script allows for lots of audience participation, including a happy Christmas singalong.
There’s lots of booing the villain, a handsome but slimy corporate guy, the CEO of a big brutal company that wants to plow up Ontario farmland and build more of those expensive condominiums.
Ever heard of this?
He’s played by the villainous Cyrus Lane and this triple-threat actor, singer, dancer, happily deserves every audience boo he gets.
Meantime Princess Buttercup, played by fantastic and vocally strong Katie Edwards, and her father, an addle-pated, muddled-up rubber-faced King (a deliberately over-the-top Allan Cooke), are trying to keep their troubled kingdom together.
Eliza-Jane Scott plays a sly little dude of a Jack, the lad who sells the family cow for a sack of beans and has eyes for Princess Buttercup. This Jack is not the greatest intellect on this fairy tale planet, but he’s a nice sort of kid, decked out in baseball cap and overalls.
Of course, there’s a pantomime Dame, the guy dressed in spectacular, slightly revealing frocks, who’s both raunchy and funny and has a great pair of gams. This is Sal Figliomeni, who sings the heart out of “When You’re Good to Mama” from the musical “Chicago,” as well as anything else he gets his high-powered lungs on.
In fact, this Dame belts out all his numbers to the rafters, and plays his laugh-lines like some Broadway baby on speed.
It’s worth the price of admission just to see what getup he’s going to turn up in next. My favourite, by the way, was a little Christmas tree number, with balls and poinsettias, in all the right places.
There’s a Pride-inspired fairy with a wand, (a sprightly Lori Nancy Kalamanski). She says to call her MC, and dashes in and out to facilitate the action and takes part in some audience interaction.
In and out of the action too, and a busy wizard on the keyboard, is musical director Stephen Ingram, who has a terrific singing voice and should have been used to more advantage throughout this entertaining show.
William Chesney’s sets are serviceable, even if the actors have to squeeze through some tricky entrance spaces. And Chris Malkowski’s lighting casts a fairy tale glow over everything.
Costume designer Alex Amini has done a great job dressing the characters in fairy tale chic, giving the whole show a classy look.
There’s not quite enough dancing in the show, but choreographer Kiri-Lyn Muir has made a neat number for the villainous CEO and two gingerbread men.
What does it have to do with anything? I don’t know, but hey, this is a panto, so just about anything goes.
If you’ve seen a British panto before you won’t be disappointed with this full-throttle incarnation.
If you’ve never been to one of these outrageous off-the-wall musical shows before, get ready to have a whale of a time.
It’s all about letting go, having fun and playing along with the gang. You will likely unleash your inner child. And what’s wrong with that?